Having logged about 50 proposals a year in the IT space, Qocreate knows a technical solution when it sees one. And each discipline surrounding these solutions is astoundingly similar. It makes sense though.
IT systems and application development, cyber security, program management, risk management, database development and management: each of these disciplines relies on industry standards. The standards (whether ISO, CMMI, NIST, or another) provide frameworks, tools, and best practices for how to accomplish the technical and management aspects of projects to a certain level of quality using repeatable, controlled methodologies. Often, then, when companies articulate their technical solutions for government and commercial proposals, they appear and sound strikingly similar.
This means the opportunity presents itself to standardize your technical content around the work your company accomplishes well on a regular basis. If you take the time to articulate your technical approaches to your core business, you can write technical solutions rapidly and with a high level of fidelity.
At Qocreate, we call this a solution profile. When you fully organize, develop, and articulate your core technical capabilities, you can use this work to write to any and all proposals that come across your desk requiring the expertise you offer to clients.
For example, if your company specializes in application development, you can put together a solution profile around how you do application development, who you’ve previously done it for, and what kind of success you’ve had in doing it. When you respond to a proposal where a client is seeking application development support, your single source solution profile provides the foundation of your response. This is true regardless of how the client asks to see the information presented.
In order to create this single-source document articulating a specific solution, you must do four things for each core capability: provide a problem statement and overview of the solution; create an anchor graphic representing the elements of the solution; define the elements of the solution, the technical approach, and benefits; and provide proof that the solution works.
Provide a Problem Statement and Overview of the Solution. The art of the sale is in addressing a problem your client needs help resolving – so when you begin articulating a technical solution, start with the problem first.
What is it you are trying to accomplish? What is the outcome you are providing to the client, and why should they care? Will you increase their profitability? Will you enhance their performance and help them save money? Does your service or product provide them greater security where they need it most?
Most businesses are interested in increasing profit, performance, and returns on investment. If your solution is going to win over an executive’s heart and mind, you want to show how you address a specific problem in a way that saves money and time and in the end improves your client’s market position.
In a solution profile, then, make sure to write a paragraph describing the problem, and follow it with a paragraph about how your solution solves that problem and why it matters. Be sure to quantify the benefit. For example, “Clients for whom we have performed agile application development experience 60% faster release times, saving an average of $50,000 a month on development costs.” Or, “Our approach to cyber security resulted in preventing hundreds of denial of service attacks, with our cyber forensics expertise leading to the prosecution of 5 individuals for perpetrating cybercrimes against one of our clients.”
If you do great work, it speaks for itself. And in the overview of your solution, you want to highlight with numbers and figures how successful you’ve been in doing what you claim to be able to do well.
Create an Anchor Graphic Representing the Elements of the Solution. Some people love to read, but almost everyone enjoys visual stimulation. An excellent graphic that shows your entire solution in a succinct, well-organized manner incites interest. It also provides the whole picture as context for people who read the technical approach to your solution.
The graphic serves as a point of reference while you discuss the elements of the solution and the methodology by which you employ the elements to obtain a result. If you do not have a graphics capability, we strongly recommend you find a reliable source for graphic design support, quickly. If you have a graphic designer or design team, orient them to this concept of an overall solution graphic. Have your designers work with your technical and business development teams to see and render the whole picture.
Define the Elements of the Solution, the Technical Approach, and the Benefits. The elements of the solution are the pieces that make up the puzzle (who, what, when, where). The technical approach tells how you do the work. The benefits tell why. When articulating your solution, you are answering all these important questions.
Have a professional writer sit down with your technical team and go through discovery exercises to determine the elements, the approach, and the benefits, and then set them down in that order. The elements should be evident in your overall graphic. And the process should support the elements, telling how you get from the beginning to the end of the solution. The benefits then tell why you approached the problem in a certain way, and what the client can expect from your services and products.
While the elements of a solution and the technical approach are important, the benefits may be the clear key. However, benefits often get confused with features of a solution, so here is a litmus test. Once you write out a benefit, ask yourself these two questions: First, ask “Is what I wrote a result?” Is it a consequence of an action? If the answer is no, you haven’t written a benefit. The second question is, “Is the result compelling in that it increases profit or performance?” If the answer is no, you do not have a benefit. A benefit is the result of your solution that improves a client’s profitability, performance, or both.
Provide Proof That the Solution Works. An approach and benefits may intrigue a client, but they often want to invest in something that you can show has worked for others. They want proof. They want evidence and a guarantee that solution provides the results you claim.
You demonstrate the credence of your claim by showing how the solutions help others. Make sure to use data and statistics that show quantifiable and quantitative improvements. If your reader makes it this far in the solution profile, defensible proof that the solution works will hook them.
Solution profiles fully articulate a technical solution. You can use the overview, the graphic, the elements, and the approach to respond to proposal requests, and to provide to your team so they better understand the company’s offerings.
Need help putting together a technical solution or creating a great graphic? Contact Qocreate - we'd be glad to help!